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An Interview with Stephanie Wijkstrom – Dating Experts Month

Tell us about yourself. What makes you a dating/relationship expert?

My name is Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC I am a certified counselor and founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania’s largest and most trusted wellness therapy practice. I specialize in relationships and providing marriage counseling and I have been featured on local television and countless articles where I act as a thought leader on relationships and wellness.

How does your approach differ from other experts? 

I use multiple psychological modalities to help people improve their relationships, from Gottman Method, to Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a little atypcial for a therapist to use so many different theoretical approaches simultaneously. I also am sex positive and LGBTQIA affirming in my approach.

What are some of the biggest challenges/frustrations you see from the people you work with? 

I think most people struggle with relationships to some degree, it would be helpful if they taught a relationships class in junior high so that people could understand the mechanics of relationships much earlier in their lives. There are fundamental laws and scientific principles that can be successfully applied to relationships to predict where it is going, improve friendship and intimacy and reduce conflict, not everyone knows that.

Member submitted questions

I’m 49, female and recently divorced. I met my husband when I was a teenager so I’ve never really done the whole dating thing. Where do I start?

– Catherine, 49

Catherine, start slow! Many people who go from married to dating are a little shocked of the speed that people take to make a commitment. The rules of dating are very different from the rules of marriage so brace yourself for more ambiguity and less structure than a conventional marriage. In today’s dating world, it is perfectly acceptable to date multiple people simultaneously which will be an adjustment for you. Going on 1,2,3,4 dates doesn’t mean that there is an established commitment so you will be free to keep meeting new people.

Tell us about some of the projects/books/events you’re currently working on/just completed.

We are working on opening our 4th counseling center, that will open in September of this year. I have just completed writing my first book on Mindfulness in Relationships and I am planning for it to be in print before the end of the year.

Do you find any patterns with respect to what women are attracted to? What are the main things women are looking for in a man?

Hard question because there is so much uniqueness in personality that causes attraction so there really is no one thing that all women look for in men. I think most people desire to feel respected, safe emotionally and physically, and also excited! If you can navigate the dichotomy of making a person feel safe and also excited you are doing well at the relationship game.

Member submitted questions

I’ve recently started an age-gap relationship with a woman who’s 15 years older than me. I haven’t told anyone about us yet and she’s getting annoyed, almost like I’m ashamed of her. I really like her but I just don’t know how my friends and family will react. What should I do?

– Marv, 30

For how long have you been seeing this partner? If it is more than 6 months, it is reasonable that she would express her wish to meet your family. How do you respond to your partner when she raises the concern that you might be ashamed of her? Do you acknowledge that you are afraid and that you can understand how your fears and avoidance of the introductions might be making her feel? Validation is the first right step with your partner as you continue to figure out whether you want to deepen the commitment by making her a part of your friend and family life. Unfortunately, you can not control how your loved ones respond to your choice of partner,  some of them may respond unfavorably and others may be glad that you found someone with whom you are enjoying spending time. At a certain point, you will need to make a choice about what feels right for you and take the risk of either losing this partner or potentially disappointing your loved ones, only you can decide which direction is the best for you.

How can people connect with you on social? 

Twitter: @CounselingPGH

Facebook: counselingwellnessPGH

Instagram: counselingwellnesspgh

Finally, what’s the one piece of advice you hold close to your heart? 

There is no one size fits all approach to relationship wellness, work on your relationship while it is healthy and prevent it from falling into disrepair. Come to understand the uniqueness of your personality and your partner’s personality. This includes both your strengths, your weaknesses, and the ways that the interactions of the relationship could lead to potential issues between you. Remember acknowledging the areas of your personality that could lead to conflict isn’t the same as saying the relationship is defective, all great relationships have some areas for growth.

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